I have never bungee jumped. I think that, at my age, it would be an instant heart attack. I don’t really have a desire to bungee jump mind you, but that doesn’t mean that I am afraid to take risks. Even though I have never bungee jumped, I think I understand why people do it. I think I understand taking on a challenge that you are terrified of and yet exhilarates you at the same time. I think I understand what it means to be stupid enough to do something that is totally outside your realm of comfort, and yet, when it’s finished, you walk away with an incredible sense of victory. I think I understand the idea that you might not walk away from it at all.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a little…….but last October, we took on a cake challenge that felt like bungee jumping….with cakes.
Several months ago we got a phone call that went something like this…….
“Hi, I got your name from my hairdresser.”
“Who’s your hairdresser?”
“Well, it was actually a client of my hairdresser.”
“I think it was the granddaughter of a friend of hers.”
“A friend of the client?”
“Do you know who it was?”
“No, not really. They were at a party where they had one of your cupcakes. We were wondering if you would be able to do my daughter’s wedding cake next June.”
The conversation took place at a time when we were still hoping/dreaming/wishing/not knowing if we could be a business or not. We were growing and trying new things and happy to take on new cake projects. We decided that we would meet with the family and see if we could help them. We got directions and drove to their house to meet with them in person. The great part was that they live ten minutes from our house. That was the first plus. We’ve driven as far as two hours to deliver a cake. Yeah, crazy, I know….but remember what I’ve said before……we LOVE people with our cakes.
The family wanted to do a tasting which is totally understandable because, as far as they knew, our cakes might look pretty but taste like wet sawdust. Most of the people that we’ve done cakes for have already tasted our cakes in one realm or another so tastings aren’t usually necessary. Since the bride and her mom had never had the opportunity to eat our cakes, we were happy to oblige. Weddings are a pretty big deal and no one wants to serve wet sawdust.
Usually, for a cake tasting, I do a 6 inch round cake and we try to decorate it with a sampling of what we can do. I had no idea what this family would be looking for but I had been working on gumpaste roses so Megan worked her piping magic and I put a gumpaste rose on top.
They loved it. Then they showed us the picture of what they wanted.
Oh my stinking heart.
The cake was a three tier cake designed to look like baskets of roses stacked on top of each other (their cake would be a four tier). The outside of the cake was marbled fondant, layered on the cake to look like slats on a basket and the whole thing was decorated with gumpaste ivy and gumpaste roses. If we pulled it off, it would end up not even looking like a cake.
I said, “Sure, we can probably do that.”
Megan didn’t like the word sure, or the word probably in that sentence. Remember, Megan is the part of our team with her feet firmly planted on the ground.
We went home and immediately came up with our list of concerns. I figured that if I addressed all of Megan’s concerns right up front, she would agree to do the cake.
I had already stacked enough cakes, at this point in time, to be confident of my ability to do a tiered cake, so that wasn’t a concern, at least not for me. Megan has this habit of watching me stack a cake, taking a step back, and waiting for it to bulge, lean or topple over. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I’ve stacked a cake, she still gets this crazed look in her eye, tilts her head slightly and starts taking short, shallow breaths. I just have to walk away.
So our first concern was not the stacking, necessarily. It was that it would be a stacked cake for a reception that took place outside, with no air conditioning….at the end of June…..
Let me take this opportunity to tell you what Pennsylvania weather is like in June. Pennsylvania is the state of weather extremes. By that I mean that it can feel like the polar ice cap one day and within 24 hours turn into a tropical rain forest. A four tiered wedding cake, covered in gumpaste roses and double layers of fondant would do great in a lovely outside polar ice cap wedding, however, Megan and I began to have visions of a heap of cake covered with melting fondant in a lovely outside tropical rain forest wedding.
I have repeated the words, “It’ll be okay,” to Megan at least 5,000 times since last October. She never really got to the point where she believed me.
Our second concern was the time factor. We were just beginning to scale back and had decided that, because of the amount of work involved with this cake (they wanted a four tier wedding cake, a 6 inch anniversary cake, and an 8 inch groom’s cake) we would not do any other cakes in June.
Who was I kidding? Myself, I guess.
That lasted about two weeks. We have scaled back, but as I’ve mentioned before, there are certain people that God has brought into our lives that we will never, ever, say no to when they need a cake.
By the time we got to June, we had scheduled four birthday cakes, 2 graduation cakes, and 185 cupcakes.
“I’m just a girl who can’t say no….I’m in a terrible fix….” Somehow, the song that Ado Annie sings in the musical, Oklahoma, kept running through my head.
The biggest concern, and it was mostly my concern, were the roses, and they were mostly my concern because Megan doesn’t do roses. I have tried and tried and tried to convince her that she can do them. She’s actually tried to do them but she hates doing roses and nothing that I say or do will get her to try again. She and gumpaste are not the best of friends, although she has discovered that she loves to do the delicate little flowers that we use for filler.
Well, it’s a good thing that I love to do roses. Roses take time. You can’t just sit down and do a rose and throw it on a cake…..well I guess I did do that once before I knew how long they took, but we won’t talk about that cake. You have to make the centers, let them dry, then start layering them with petals. While you can put all the petal layers on at one time, I like to let my roses dry between each layer of petals. Are you counting?….a week for the centers to dry, a day for each petal layer, and a day to add the calyxes. There had to be enough roses to make the baskets look believable. A single rose scattered here and there wouldn’t do the trick.
You know how when you can’t sleep and you wake up in the middle of the night and you stress about something that you’ve been worrying about and that same thing just keeps plaguing you anytime your brain has some down time when it should be relaxing?
I wanted to have them done months before the wedding. After all, the cakes had been scheduled about 8 months before the event. It’s not like I didn’t have the time. Well…..factor in Christmas, a trip to Disney, my daughter’s struggles with miscarriages, my own struggle with skin cancers, on and on…..I guess life just got in the way of me doing roses.
So guess when I finished them? Five days before the wedding…..32 roses in all….18 full size roses, 6 medium roses, 8 rosebuds and 12 sprays of ivy. I guess that I work best under pressure, or at least it seems that way. I like to live dangerously….remember the whole bungee jumping concept?
We kept praying for good weather. The day came and it wasn’t as hot or humid as it could have been but it was pretty hot and relatively humid. We set up the cake, cried because it turned out so well, and drove away. For about two miles down the road after leaving, Megan was still hyperventilating, waiting for a phone call telling us that the fondant was sliding off the cake. “Oh, ye of little faith.”
We had mixed feelings as we drove away. This had been our most challenging creation yet and we had planned for it, stressed about, and spent hours creating it. Leaving it behind felt a little like leaving a child on the first day of kindergarten. You’ve put so much love and effort into it, you trust the people that you’re leaving it with but you leave a good portion of your heart behind when you go.
In the end (as you know, I’m a bottom line kind of person and I like to let you know how it all turned out), we set up the cake, the reception tent looked gorgeous, and everyone was happy. The bride and her family took a big risk in asking amateurs like us to do a cake like this and I like to think that their faith in us was not misplaced. (As a matter of fact, sometimes I think that people have more faith in us than we have in ourselves.) The bride and her mom were wonderful to work with and the wedding was beautiful.
We have since scaled back on the cakes we’re doing (“yeah, right”…..that was my husband in the background). As I’ve mentioned, ad infinitum, we are not now, nor anytime in the near future, going to be a business. We only do cakes for family and dear friends…..but it’s funny how, when you take on a project and work so closely with someone, and get to see their hopes and wishes come true in a cake, you get to be friends. As I’ve said before, we’re thankful to be given the opportunity and the ability to do these cakes….but we’re also, mostly, thankful for the people that they bring into our lives.
It was a huge cake risk for us, one that we stressed about for months but it was a good feeling to know that we didn’t shy away from it, and it was a wonderful feeling knowing that we helped to make the bride’s cake dreams come true. After dealing with severe panic attacks many years ago, I am convinced that the only way to conquer your fears is to face them, smack them over the head, and walk right through them. We met the challenge head on, although we did take a few panic attacks along for the ride.
We bungee jumped……and lived to tell about it.